How can Facebook help grow your email list?

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Imagine the direct impact on supporter relations if the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had included a way to capture email. What an amazing moment for the ALS to identify those supporters willing to further share their support, learn more or even get more deeply involved. With hundreds of thousands of people suddenly exposed to their cause, and motivated to engage with the mission, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge exemplified the power of social marketing and illustrates its potential in providing untapped opportunities to reach, capture and cultivate meaningful relationships with supporters.

For years, organizations have treated Facebook and email as entirely different channels to reach and engage supporters. But increasingly, organizations that successfully merge their email and Facebook efforts find themselves with far more benefits.

All right inside of Facebook, there are numerous opportunities to reach new people, capture their data and cultivate meaningful relationships. At the same time, email remains the best channel for much of the marketing that organizations do today. Combining Facebook and email efforts creates a synchronistic relationship where one plus one equals a huge increase in benefits.

How Facebook Supports Email Efforts

In an effort to be the marketing vehicle of choice, Facebook has a concerted strategy to make it easy to leverage the information and networks of its 1.23 billion users in ways that add real value, which for many organizations today includes augmenting email efforts. This can be realized in three important ways:

1. Reach your target audience

Ask people to take action within Facebook rather than on your website, or another external property. People appreciate remaining in the context in which they are working and are more inclined to complete an action, such as sharing their email address, as a result of liking, commenting and sharing within Facebook. Organizations who don’t keep visitors within the Facebook context find that they forego reach, gain negligible fans, and capture only a fraction of the new supporters they could have.

For example, Sierra.Rise ran an email campaign driving supporters to a post on their Facebook page rather than a petition page on their website. The post itself included a clear call to action that went beyond clicking Like, Share or Comment. It asked people to sign a petition, a petition that resided directly inside Facebook. In addition to outperforming past Facebook posts and growing the number of Facebook supporters, Sierra.Rise captured the name and Facebook User ID of every person that Liked or Commented on the post. Most importantly, they captured the email address of every person that signed the petition, adding net-new supporters to their database.

2. Cultivate more productive relationships

It’s become clear that organizations need to move beyond building awareness as their goal for Facebook marketing – both to gain reasonable ROI from their efforts and to take advantage of the changes Facebook has made that enable organizations to reach and engage target audiences in ways that go well beyond Like, Share and Comment.

By giving app developers the ability to add new actions that people can take directly in the News Feed, Facebook opened the ability to build deeper relationships with people right inside Facebook. While custom actions have been around for a little while now, not nearly enough marketers are taking advantage of the benefits engaging directly in Facebook brings. In the case of Sierra.Rise, they were able to not only gather email addresses of interested petitioners, but were able to capture data to better understand the interests of new (and existing) supporters, giving them the opportunity to create deeper, more meaningful relationships.

3. Capture data to evolve relationships on and off Facebook

Most organizations have invested in building their Facebook communities for years. For these organizations, there is a tremendous amount of pent-up value locked away inside Facebook in the form of fans and communities. And that value just keeps growing. A study by NTEN and M+R in 2012 illustrates this point well, finding that Facebook fan growth at 46 percent far outpaced email list growth, which was reported at 12.45 percent.

Yet until recently, the only way to capture email addresses of people on Facebook was to drive them OFF Facebook to a website or app to fill out a form. While this manner of email capture is as old as email and website use itself, driving people to take action on or off Facebook by filling out a form has always fallen flat. This is primarily because these forms are a viral dead end, which defeats the entire point of Facebook. This means, if you are lucky enough to have a post on your Facebook page that does drive people to take action from it, it will simply fail to be shared and spread. In other words, the more successful organizations are at creating posts that drive people to take the action, the less viral it is!

However, with Facebook’s Open Graph API, it’s easier than ever to give people meaningful actions to take directly from their newsfeed without leaving Facebook. Marketers can then capture their data without forgoing the viral impact of people engaging and sharing content directly on Facebook, offering organizations a very cost effective email list growth strategy.  As long as email remains a marketing workhorse, it’s critical that organizations not overlook prime opportunities to grow their house list with interested and socially activated supporters.

Drew Bernard is the founder and CEO of ActionSprout.com; a Facebook app that empowers nonprofits and political campaigns to engage supporters beyond like, share and comment. Drew has been helping organizations build productive relationships with supporters online for over ten years. Twitter: @drewbernard.